Even in the middle of the cold American winter, there's still plenty to do and see around Historic Route 66. It's why the Mother Road is also the perfect escape for the holidays, whether you're travelling with family, friends or on a Route 66 Tour.
Although our tours are currently on hold, you can still look ahead to 2021 and a healthy return to adventuring. In the mean time, dream ahead to a holiday in America. From deep caverns to charming mountain cities, we've run down a few of the top family-friendly attractions that are open in the winter months. Happy (remote) exploring!
What better way to beat the cold weather than by heading underground. Missouri's famous Meramec Caverns boast temperatures of 15 degrees Celsius year-round and are open every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The cave itself is a true natural wonder, with stalactites and stalagmites galore, as well as a geologic formation called the wine table that's one of the only in ones in the world like it. In addition to witnessing its natural beauty, you can learn all about the history and science behind this cave and its region. The caverns have been known to nearby Native Americans for hundreds of years and had multiple uses before becoming a tourist destination, including as a source for a key gunpowder ingredient during the American Civil War and the site of numerous "cave parties" at the turn of the 20th century.
One cave exploration isn't enough for you? While Meramec Caverns is the largest commercial cave in Missouri, it's far from the only one. The "Show Me" State boasts over 6,000 of these unique geological structures, many of which are open to the public.
The Blue Whale of Catoosa
Just east of Tulsa, in the town of Catoosa, Oklahoma, a 24-metre-long whale sits next to a pond along Route 66. For years, the sculpture has inspired joy and raised eyebrows. why a giant whale, in a landlocked state hundreds of miles from the ocean?
The Blue Whale of Catoosa was built with family in mind, and continues to be a great destination for travellers of all ages, decades later. The structure was built by Hugh S. Davis, a local zoologist, who wanted to create a unique place for his grandchildren to play. Construction of the Blue Whale took two years, with most of the work done by Davis and one other friend, and utilised a welded metal frame and cement.
Today, the Blue Whale of Catoosa is one of the most famous roadside attractions on a route that's filled with them. Visitors can take a guided tour, or explore the sculpture for themselves, including a secret ladder that goes into the whale's head.
While temperatures in the winter is relatively mild along much of the Mother Road, the route covers so much terrain and varying elevation that good weather is certainly not a given. The Arizona portion of the road goes through Flagstaff, one of the snowiest cities in America with an annual average of 222 centimetres. In 2019 the city set a new single-day record for snowfall, with almost a metre of accumulation.
Although it's best to be prepared for unpredictable weather, Flagstaff, and the mountainous region around it, has a lot to offer during the holiday months. Skiers can hit the slopes at the Arizona Snowbowl, or explore at a more relaxed pace on cross-country skis from the Arizona Nordic Village. Both sit in the San Francisco peaks, just a few miles from the Flagstaff city limits. If skiing isn't for you, try your hand at winter hiking in the Coconino National Forest, or simply hang out in Flagstaff's vibrant downtown
The Grand Canyon
No Route 66 adventure, no matter the time of year, is complete without a stop at the Grand Canyon. While not technically on the Mother Road, this American landmark is well worth the hour-long detour. Winter is a great time of year to visit the Grand Canyon, allowing you to beat the pummeling Arizona heat and many of the largest crowds at one of America's most popular tourist destinations. Seeing the rims of canyon tipped in snow is sure to be a truly mesmerising and unique experience.
During these months, the main South Rim visitor centres are still open to public. The Canyon's North Rim, however, is closed to cars. That doesn't mean it's not open to exploration. Outdoor enthusiasts will have an easier time getting back country hiking permits than during the peak months and many of the campsites in the depths of the canyon boasts far warmer temperatures than the observation decks up top. Make sure to pack a warm sleeping bag! If you plan to explore the Grand Canyon from the comforts of your car, the National Park Service still recommends coming prepared with a shovel and some extra windshield fluid in case of a surprise snowstorm.
Whether in search of family holiday or simply a new adventure, the Mother Road is calling. For the historic road trip of a lifetime, you simply cannot top a drive down Route 66. We can't wait to take you back out on The Mother Road once it is safe to do so. Our next planned tour is scheduled for Summer, 2021. While you wait, you can stay connected and check out more views of the adventure ahead at www.route66tours.com.au.